AES – the Witnesses of the Future. Islamic Project.
AES group, 1996-2003
We produced the first images of AES – Witnesses of the Future: Islamic Project in 1996 during the breakout of Chechen
War. In 1997 we created AES Travel Agency to the Future, which was shown in Paris, New York, Graz, etc. The project
almost instantly was with met active and controversial reaction in international press. In German magazine «Art», Gregory Ingleright wrote that AES support brutality of Russian troops in Chechnya. The journalist was gravely mistaken, we have always been against the war, and the magazine had to publish a refutation.
Then, in 1998 Rainer Metzger in the same magazine claimed Islamic Project the best art concept of the year. However, not
only western press gave a feedback, we've received a perspective from the Islamic world: Cairo's newspaper El Dustour wrote: "(...) the project makes the Arabian world think not only about relationship between East and West, but about inner relationship between radical and loyal communities". Spring 1997 issue of SIKSI magazine published a feature, which said that the project refutes "Clash of Civilizations", a book by professor of Harvard, Samuel Huntington. Mr. Huntington counts nine civilizations: Western, Orthodox, Islamic, Confucian, Buddhist, Japanese, Hindu, African and Latin American. He claims that conflicts are most likely to emerge as alignments of the West against the Rest, and especially the West against Islam. The world according to Mr. Huntington is definitely a worldview from WASP USA. Mika Hannula continues: "Where Mr. Huntington goes astray and confirms distorted claims, the group breaks them down, calls them into question, and in a rather disquieting way with their strikingly well-done computer collages illuminates how unbelievable and invalid these prejudices are".
When horrible terror broke out in America our artistic phantasm grotesque of 1996 seemed real and Mr. Huntington appeared to be right, we could feel as artists that became prophets. But now all of us understand that revenge for the events in America would not be the last link in the chain, but the start of the 21st century history, when mankind has to solve the problems of coexistence in global world of poor and rich, religious and consumer societies. The project is neither anti-Islamic nor anti-Western, but tries to function as a psychoanalytical therapy in which phobias from both Western and Eastern society are uncovered and worked through. In AES – The Witnesses of the Future: Islamic Project we tried to reveal the contradictable ethics and aesthetics of our times. We believe that contemporary art does not solve the problems, but it can raise the major questions.
There are two ways of performing: first – as «AES Travel Agency to the Future» – fake office with obvious stuff and our images on posters, postcards, mugs, carpets, T-shirts etc. First time it was shown in Guelman Gallery, Moscow in 1996. The second way – as installation with title «Oasis» which is a kind of Bedouin tent done from traditional handmade carpets stitched from cotton fabric with our Islamic images printed on silk (carpets produced in Egypt). It is a place for meditation and dreaming on sofas with water pipes, Arabic music etc.
Islamic Project was shown in Russia, in most of European countries, United States and in South Korea. It was published in catalogues and albums, in many newspapers (The New York Times, Forward, Liberation, Tages Zeitung, Wochenpost, Der Standard etc.) and magazines (NBK, Art News, Art, Siksi, Art Press etc.) of different western countries as well as in Egypt and South Korea.